FOOD SCOOPS: AVENTINE HOLLYWOOD

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Newly opened and nestled in the heart of Hollywood, Aventine brings the charm of old world Rome married with a modern San Francisco-inspired design aesthetic. Hailing their namesakes from one of the seven hills ancient Rome was built on, Aventine Hollywood is the second iteration of brothers Gian-Paolo and Chef Adolfo Veronese’s successful Taverna Aventine of San Francisco.

 

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The Veronese’s are people of careful thought, and this is made apparent as soon as you walk through their door. Gian-Paolo set out to create a place that, “speaks for itself,” and certainly hit the mark. As an avid event host (especially favoring the arts and non-profits), and a preserver of tradition, Gian-Paolo sought out a building with history and room for expansion. He tore through walls to expose beautiful 1920s brickwork and thought to use one wall as a “garage door” opening up to a beautifully kept patio and alley. Not only does Aventine serve as a warm, intimate dining space, but the flexibility in its design allows it to open up to accommodate large parties, or even festivals. Though its potential as a venue is exciting, the little details are what makes Aventine so charming– the dining tables are made from reclaimed bocce ball courts.

 

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Care and attention to detail certainly don’t stop with the decor. Chef Adoldfo’s menu takes the traditional and makes it unexpected and exciting. The Aventino (mozzarella stuffed meatball on a bed of golden raisins, soft polenta, and topped with basil pesto) was a delight of textures and flavors, and the first time I ever enjoyed polenta. Chef Adolfo generously kept us surprised all night by sending out a taste of nearly everything on the menu—and I could go on praising all of it. The Gamberoni (sautéed prosciutto wrapped jumbo shrimp, sage, balsamic glaze) were unbelievable, the Gnocchi pillowy soft, the Agnolotti (stuffed with short ribs, rice, swiss chard, demi cream sauce) a savory delight, and the Verdure a Foglia (sautéed winter greens, spicy red pepper) were hearty, yet simply done with a nice heat. Despite being loaded up on all that beautiful food, when Chef Adolfo sent out the Ossobuco, we knew we had to make room. The meat was incredibly tender and fell right off the bone. The friend polenta made the perfect sponge for soaking up all the flavors of the Ossobuco; crispy on the outside and creamy inside, its delicate flavor yielding to the richness of the meat.

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Our final surprise from Chef Adolfo was dessert. It would be a mistake to walk away from Aventine without trying some of their sweets. We tried the Zoccolini (fried pizza dough stuffed with nutella, mascarpone dipping sauce, sqirl jam), which was wonderfully indulgent, and the Butterscotch Panna Cotta with a maldon salt crust. This is certainly not to be missed. The salt added a great depth to the sweet, buttery panna cotta that made for a dessert worth fighting Hollywood traffic and parking for.

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The Veronese brothers don’t do all this alone; Food Network celebrity mixologist Nikki Martin has joined ranks as beverage director. Seasonally driven and food minded, Martin mixes playfulness with tradition (Martin loves working with candy). Take for example, Martin’s punchbowl-style Limoncello served with a black licorice straw, or Negroni with rock candy and ginger. Her Tuscan Sunrise (Hendrick’s Gin with muddled strawberry and basil) was refreshing and flirty, with the herbal nod towards Italy, and comes highly recommended. We also got to sample her Stropino: champagne, vodka, and two scoops of mandarin sorbet topped with microgreens (in our case, cilantro). Also delicious was the Rosemary Clooney. Named after George Clooney’s aunt, the singer of the hit Mambo Italiano, a close second to our favorite cocktail.

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And if all you’re looking for is a little snack with your drinks, Aventine offers Popcorn Al Tartufo (truffle popcorn with parmesan and Italian parsley)—the perfect bar snack with an elegantly traditional twist.

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Like any good Italian kitchen, Aventine is here to feed the whole neighborhood, with the comforts of tradition and the spoils of Hollywood’s glamour.

1607 N Cahuenga Blvd
Hollywood, CA, 90028.
323.500.0969

Mon-Thurs: 5:30pm – 11pm
Fri-Sat 5:30pm – 11:30pm
Sunday: Closed

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FOOD SCOOPS: DINNER AT MIGNON

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AT A GLANCE:
MIGNON
128 E. 6th St. Los Angeles, CA 90014

GOOD FOR: A cozy party of one or two, snacks and drinks, catching up with an old friend, reading a book, a casual yet substantial dinner.
BAD FOR: Big groups, getting ratchet.
PRICE: Drinks $6-$14, Food $5-$30
VIBE: Intimate, comfortable, romantic
DRINK: A curated selection of wine & beer
EAT: Rustic, approachable French dishes
HIGHLIGHTS: Happy Hour till 8pm and all-night on Sundays; warm, fresh bread; savory soups and the Braised Short Rib.

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Truth is, the Historic Core is my neighborhood, and Mignon is my favorite neighborhood spot.

This tiny wine-and-cheese bar tucked in next to Cole’s is aptly named after the French word for cute. But aside form being plain-old adorable, I could go on and on counting the ways it wins my loyalty and affection: it smells like freshly baked bread, the lighting is less than dim, the wine is carefully curated and affordable, they always play the perfect music at the perfect volume, and you can very comfortably sit in there by yourself and read a book. (The best time to do so is Sunday, because—and it pains me to divulge this information—Happy Hour is all night.)

 

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While I was perfectly happy munching on Mignon’s prosciutto-and-butter sandwiches, small vegetable plates, gourmet meats and cheeses, and irresistible bread, they’ve now introduced a nightly dinner menu of rustic French cuisine. Which might seem odd considering they don’t exactly have a kitchen.

 

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You see, Santos Uy, the oenophile responsible for this brilliant little bar, also owns the successful Hollywood French restaurant Papilles. To bring a downscaled version of Papilles’ approchable French fare to Downtown LA, Uy enlisted Papilles Chef Tim Carey to create a new dinner program for Mignon. All the food is prepared at Papilles every day, brought over to Mignon, and cooked in a clever miniature sous-vide set-up.

I thought it smelled good in there before, but now….swoon, drool, etc.

 

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A Frisee Salad with a soft-boiled egg: fresh and bright with crisp lettuce and radishes plus a perfectly gooey yolk to break into.

 

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Soups are Chef Tim’s specialty, and once you try this one you’ll totally believe it. I’m not usually a fan of Lentil Soup, but this is nothing like your usual earthy, bulbous slop. It’s silky, savory, and comforting.

 

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Braised short rib: this is one of those super soft, melts-in-your-mouth pieces of beef that packs a wonderful flavor, sitting atop a bed of yummy mashed potatoes.

The compact menu changes nightly, and dessert is on its way, but on any given night whatever you find on the list is sure to leave you nostalgic for the French countryside upbringing you never had. Yeah, it’s powerful stuff.

 

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Prix Fixe $29

Entrée, Plat, Dessert ou Fromage

A la Carte

Les Entrées $8

Ouefs en Cocotte: Baked Eggs, Leeks, Cream

Paté de Campagne, Mustard, Cornichons

Okame Spinach, Pea Tendrils, Nasturtium, Lemon

Celeriac Velouté

Les Plats $18

Garbure: Pork Shoulder Stew with Ham Hocks, Cabbage, Parsnips, Carrots and Leek

Braised Short Ribs, Carrots, Turnips, Rice

Extras $6

Macaroni Gratin

Cauliflower Gratin

Relish Plate: Raw Roots and Butter

Desserts $7

Chocolate Pot de Crème

Lucie’s Cake

Charcuterie $5 each, $13 for 3

Served with Baguette, Butter, Mustard and Cornichons

Tamworth Prosciutto, Coppa Piccante, Saucisson Sec, Speck, Bresaola

Les fromages $5 each, $13 for 3, $20 for 5

Served with Baguette and Accompaniments

Brillat Savarin, Caña di Cabra, Epoisses, Pecorino Ginepro, Mahon, Bleu des Basques

FOOD SCOOPS: CAFE GRATITUDE

There’s something incredibly novel about Café Gratitude, it almost feels like a McDonald’s for vegans in the most ironic of ways.

Maybe it’s the bright, sunny interior of its newest Rose Ave incarnation, its walls plastered with feel good words and sayings that make even the most devoted meat eater feel good about being there. Or perhaps it’s the way each item on the menu has its own ‘I am …’ name, leading you down a garden path of spiritual fulfillment. Today are you “fantastic” or “adventurous” and then does the name of said dish correlate with your hunger?

With four locations across the Bay Area and LA, Café Gratitude is a true family affair. It arrived in LA in 2011, when brothers Cary Mosier and Ryland Engelhart decided to expand the concept their parents founded in San Francisco years ago.

The first Larchmont restaurant was an instant success among LA’s health conscious foodies and curious carnivores alike and as interest around the mid-city locale spread, so too did the brother’s desire to bring gratitude to the coast. Last July, Café Gratitude headed to the beach and took to the social fabric of Venice like a duck to water.

 

 

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As Abbot Kinney continues to spill onto Rose, Café Gratitude has found itself in the epicenter, surrounded by some of Venice’s most exciting new restaurants. Housed in fresh red brick, an always-filled outdoor patio buzzes with locals lounging on cane chairs atop a brilliant mosaic tiled floor. Inside, clean lines are drawn by the white communal tables and booths that fill the restaurant; a coastal sensibility is very much felt as driftwood is used throughout while natural light floods the space and each table is topped with bright green succulents.

 

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First to the table is the “I AM STRONG” protein smoothie of Maca malt, bananas, hempseeds, chia, dates, vanilla and coconut milk and the “I AM HEALTHY” cold-pressed juice of Kale, celery, cucumber and lemon juice. The former is incredibly creamy with the deceptive sweetness of dessert while the latter is fresh and cool and earthy, loved by your body for sure.

 

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If you are feeling “VIVACIOUS” then order the live marinated kale chips with your choice of vegan dipping sauces like the hempseed ranch.

 

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After the appetizers, the menu is divided into raw and cooked specialties, each drawing from an international influence combining simple, organic ingredients and delivered in the most sophisticated and affectionate of ways. Grains and beans lay the foundation for land and sea vegetables in varying forms, sometimes topped with seeds and sprouts and always with your choice of sauce and an array of vegan cheeses.

 

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The stand out dish on the menu is the “I AM GRATEFUL” bowl, described as a “community-supported grain bowl” of shredded kale with quinoa and black beans and garlic-tahini sauce and it’s by donation. It is the ultimate way that Café Gratitude can communicate its convictions to its customers and the community. Designed as a way for patrons to truly show their gratitude, the minimum donation for the bowl is $3; suggested value is $7, while a very reasonable $14 will feed yourself and someone else.

 

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Dessert is good for your body in all the ways you had ever hoped it would be, free from gluten, dairy and refined sugars yet full of flavor and vibrancy. Classics like the lemon meringue pie and cheesecake are reinvented as the “I AM AMAZING” and the “I AM CHERISHED” and knowing that each is guilt-free, we’ll take both.

 

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But the Café Gratitude journey doesn’t end there.

A small grocery area is filled with health foods and goodies from local vendors and the café itself. There’s a complete cleanse you can partake in and ongoing workshops and events designed to continually educate the community and promote health and well-being for both the individual and the planet.

 

FOOD SCOOPS: HINOKI & THE BIRD

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LA CANVAS had the exciting opportunity to attend the grand opening of Hinoki & the Bird, the latest venture from Michelin starred Chef David Myers. More exciting is what Myers and executive chef Kuniko Yagi prepared for the evening.

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Hinoki & the Bird boasts a beautifully curated menu with a unique, yet very California flavor. “Fresh” and “complex,” two adjectives befitting California itself, proved to be the most succinct descriptors of the cocktails and bites featured that night.

Trotted out on platters by the friendly, attentive staff, we sampled from across their dinner menu: BBQ pork, drunken duck breast (with persimmon), lobster roll, and chili crab toast. Our favorite bites were the beef tartare (with pickled jalapeno and parmigiano, topped with quail egg yolk), pumpkin toast (with miso jam and goat cheese), and the raw oysters topped with a pear mignonette. Normally, my pallet is not so adventurous, but the oysters were unexpectedly refreshing—the mignonette brought a delightfully surprising sweetness—and I haven’t been able to get my mind off them since.

 

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Not to be overshadowed by the dinner menu, Hinoki & the Bird’s cocktails were superb. We tried their specials, the Nakatomi Plaza and the Seasonal Fix.

The former featured Yamakazi whisky with a Choya plum wine and pressed green apple, and tasted tart yet sweet, like a candied apple. Seasonal fix featured either gin, rum, vodka or tequila (in our case, tequila), served with fresh lemon over muddled seasonal fruit. Our fruit was strawberry, yielding a flirty drink that had a surprisingly smoky finish.

 

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As a testament to thought and skill, the sweets offered, though largely simple, held their own among the rich pallet of savory treats and flavorful drinks. We tried their madeline (can a soft, buttery dessert be refreshing?), cream puff, and the green tea matcha doughnut balls (my favorite); the latter adding the lightest touch of a savory earthiness paired with a warm, fried, and buttery texture. Sublime.

 

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Hinoki & the Bird itself is nestled in the base of The Century, and manages a complex balancing act in its architecture and design. It is graceful, elegant, comfortable, warm, modern, and rustic all at once. The interior is sandwiched between the bar and kitchen, with rows of couch-like benches and chairs. The exterior is an enclosed patio, partitioned by an open fireplace lined with candles, creating both an open and an intimate outdoor space. All of this makes Hinoki & the Bird an ideal destination for a special evening for two or a charming space for a celebration.

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10 Century Dr
Tuesday – Saturday, 5:30pm to 10:00pm
310.552.1200
www.hinokiandthebird.com

FOOD SCOOPS: NEW MENU AT SHORT ORDER

A self-described modern interpretation of the classic fast-casual restaurant, Short Order isn’t just a burger and shake joint, it’s a space filled with passion for “Old America,” pioneering a journey through current and future food trends. It’s  a place where you can find comfort in knowing where your meal came from and what’s actually in it. The food has a purpose, a reason for being on your plate and a history. It seems fitting then that on their one year anniversary Short Order should launch their new menu, designed with sustainability in mind and to use one whole steer for freshly ground burgers and a daily special.

LAC was lucky enough to be invited for a tasting of this new menu and ideology, greeted on the day by a spread of Short Order’s renowned starters and sides – Crispy Pickle Chips, Spuds and Wood Fired Green Beans with a smorgasbord of sauces such as the loaded baked potato dipping sauce dotted with actual bacon pieces and an array of mayo. But the real fun begins when the “Thursday” is served – The Bacon Wrapped Filet, a king amongst each of the daily specials, a range of classic home style American comforts ranging from a Corned Beef Hash to Meatloaf to the Chicken Fried Steak.

With the addition of a fried egg and red wine beef reduction all stacked upon a fluffy brioche bun, the Thursday’s burger style bacon wrapped filet is reminiscent of breakfast, almost a tragedy to be eaten at night and not, in fact, as you crawl out of bed with a raging hangover. It is silky and smoky, cooked medium rare and with the perfect amount of booze killing flavor.

 

Next to arrive is the Ranchers Pie, Tuesday’s delight and served with a hulking piece of bone in the middle with – you guessed it – freshly discovered marrow deep within its well. A reworked image of the traditional shepherd’s pie, freshly ground grass fed beef is dressed with a smacking of marrow, of course all from the same animal, and topped with a cloud of mashed potato gratin.

 

The final entrée we are met with is the endangered Reuban sandwich, led by the stellar homemade corned brisket and made in limited availability thanks to Short Order’s sustainability system and the simple fact that there are only two briskets on the one animal. Housed between fresh rye, gooey cheese and SQIRL kraut, this elusive dish sells out early in the night due to low supply and high demand and needless to say, we felt rather lucky to have sampled it.

 

To the hum of satisfied sighs and general happiness, dessert is served from Short Oder’s little sister bakery, Short Cake, housed just steps away in the Farmers Market. Short Cake’s head pastry chef, Hourie Sahakian, curates the dessert menu and presents us with grilled cake topped with Straus vanilla custard and seasonal cranberries for Christmas along with the deep fried croissant (yes you read that correctly) with a molten banana and cardamom cream center. A “Drunken Girl Scout” is passed around to everyone’s delight as we finish the tasting with one of Short Order’s famous custard shakes, obviously from the “spiked” selection, this time a chocolate mint special that is deceptively sweet with that familiar tang of crème de menthe.

And so, like sleepy children, we sat in extreme satisfaction with full bellies and warm hearts as the comfort of American fare lured us into a dreamy food coma. Short Order’s new menu is full of nostalgic glimpses of what your mom used to make, with visions of ‘too good to be true’ dishes that push the envelope on the institution of American food.  Like its “fast casual” concept, the menu is inherently simple – it’s food that just makes you HAPPY. Quality ingredients from local vendors and the use of a single steer means Short Order has created its own ideology based on sustainability and supporting the community. And as you walk out into the chaos of the Farmer’s Market, you are left with a feeling that, while you may need to go to a couple of spin classes to work it off, the meal you just consumed meant something for all involved.

FOOD SCOOPS: URBAN GARDEN

Leave it to expert restauranteur George Abou-Daoud to take fast casual to a whole ‘nother level. Inspired by his mother’s home cooking, the NYC transplant’s new spot on Fairfax is currently churning out some of the freshest, tastiest Mediterranean cuisine in Los Angeles. Featuring a diverse menu of combinable dips, sides, meats, salads or pita wraps, Urban Garden has a little something for everyone; and as delicious as it is, you’ll be surprised to find that a meal here won’t hurt your wallet or your diet.

There are a ton of vegan options on the menu—including the masterfully fried chickpea and quinoa falafel, which maintains a delicate, not-too-greasy texture and rich flavor. But omnivores will have their needs met as well, with juicy lamb shawarma, lemon herb crispy skin rotisserie chicken, or beef kefta rolls. And whether you like things spicy or mild, you’ll be find a whole range of complex flavors built from fresh local herbs and authentic imported spices. Wash it all down with a cold rosewater lemonade for a uniquely refreshing experience.

 

Everything from Urban Garden’s kitchen is made fresh daily from locally sourced produce, with organic chickpeas forming the basis of delicacies like babaganoush, hummus and falafel. You can choose from traditional, spicy, or sun-dried tomato hummus, which are all great paired with the thick, tangy lebneh yogurt and some fresh-baked whole wheat or traditional pita.

 

The only 100% lamb shawarma in Los Angeles; it’s incredibly flavorful and juicy, covered in a tangy marinade that pairs well with the eggplant babaganoush, tahini or even a little garlic sauce.

The rotisserie chicken is great to pick up for a family-style dinner. You can get a half-chicken for just $8 or the whole bird for $12 served with your choice of sauce. Add sides of rice, salad, spicy cauliflower or garlic potatoes to make it a meal.

Everything is available all wrapped up for a hand-held meal.

 

Stuffed grape leaves–a zesty, healthy classic.

 

 

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FOOD SCOOPS: MACRO HOUR AT M CAFE

 

Happy Hour is typically a time to take the edge off the work day with a nicely discounted dose of booze, maybe even a half-priced appetizer–who can resist? But the 3 to 7pm window doesn’t always have to be decadent to be happy. Not every occasion calls for fried balls or sliders or beers or martinis.

Leave it to the geniuses at Hollywood Favorite M Café to come up with a pretty ecstatic alternative: Macro Hour.


In case you’re not already familiar, M Café is famous for it’s diverse menu of nutritious but super healthy eats that follow Macrobiotic* principles in a contemporary way. The food is made without any refined sugars, dairy, eggs, red-meat or poultry–but trust us, you won’t miss it, especially not at the new Macro Hour.

 

Running Weekdays at the Melrose location from 4pm-7pm, Macro Hour offers exclusive off-menu items including delicious re-interpretations of happy hour favorites, like Nachos and Mac & Cheese, as well as other fun snacks like BBQ Seitan Spring Rolls and Crispy Asparagus Spears. Everything is between $6-$8, and you can get macro-shooters for $1 each to score some extra health points. Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to schedule an afternoon meeting or just grab a snack and read a book, M Café has got you covered.

 

BBQ Seitan Vietnamese Spring Rolls with a savory peanut sauce. So light and refreshing with a nice crispy bite.

 

Macro Nachos! Jalapenos, cilantro, beans, and guacamole—can’t go wrong here.

 

The Mac & Cheese is creamy and wholesome with sundried tomatoes, arugula, and asparagus.

 

The Crispy Asparagus Spears will satisfy your craving for a crunchy fried snack without getting too greasy. And the zesty dipping sauce should not be neglected.

 

 

M CAFE

7119 Melrose Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90046

*The Macrobiotic diet is an ancient approach to eating which focuses on lighter, local, and unprocessed whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and fish, with the goal being the maintenance of an optimal balance.